North

Inuit sign deal with Quebec, Ottawa on Nunavik government

Representatives of Quebec's northern Inuit signed an agreement in principle Wednesday with Quebec and the federal government to establish new powers of self-government.

Representatives of Quebec's northern Inuit signed an agreement in principle Wednesday with Quebec and the federal government to establishnew powers of self-government.

A ceremony at Quebec's national assembly made the deal official, months after the agreement was reached last summer between the province and Makivik Corp., which represents Inuit in the proposed northern Quebec territory known as Nunavik.

The proposed Inuit territory of Nunavik is bordered to the south by the 55th parallel. ((CBC))
"[With] the completion of a final agreement, the government and people of Nunavik will be empowered to chart the future of their communities," Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said Wednesday.

"With a new regional government, they will be able to make their own decisions about matters related to the preservation and development of their distinctive culture. This will lead to increased opportunities for economic growth and self-sufficiency."

The agreement in principle will create the Nunavik Regional Government, an Inuit-run body that will take over responsibilities normally covered by municipal governments.

The regional government will also have authority over education and health matters in the region. Wednesday's agreement formalizes intentions to merge the existing Kativik regional government, the area school board and regional health authority.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest (standing in centre) and federal Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl (seated at left) were among those who signed the deal with Inuit leaders in Quebec City Wednesday. ((CBC))
The Nunavik assembly would remain part of Quebec and would be subordinate to the province's legislatureand the federalHouse of Commons. As well, its newpowers still stop short of a full land claim settlement, said Quebec's native affairs minister.

"It's not really a sovereign government or a sovereign authority," Benoit Pelletier said.

"It's [a deal] between a municipality and a sovereign government. It really is innovative, and it is audacious on the part of our government."

The agreement is expected to be in place by 2009. It does not include any new provincial funding for Inuit social programs or institutions.

Representatives from 14 Nunavik communities attended the ceremony Wednesday, and said the agreement in principle is the product of more than 30 years of negotiations.